This content is part of the Conference Coverage: Dreamforce 2016 coverage

Data is an asset, but intelligent systems on horizon

Companies are now seeing the critical nature of using data intelligence and data quality within intelligent systems to understand their customers.

While companies know data is the currency of business, it's still a struggle to make that data insightful and actionable.

Companies are using technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) to augment their internal data through intelligent systems in order to learn more about customers. At the same time, bringing intelligence to bear on internal data systems doesn't mean companies know what to do with that intelligence.

According to Bluewolf Group's most recent "State of Salesforce" report, just more than half of the 1,700-plus respondents (52%) said they have intelligent systems, while 80% of the data that undergirds these applications remains untouched. Companies have little visibility into the nature or meaning of that data because it is unstructured and more difficult to analyze than traditional, numeral-based data.

More importantly, few companies have reached a level where they are using AI to create cognitive applications -- that is, software that's constantly learning and emulating human behavior.

"While half of companies consider their core applications to be intelligent," noted the report, "few companies have reached the level of cognitive application." Those cognitive applications are defined by the following four characteristics:

  • Cognitive applications understand unstructured data -- text, images, etc. -- as humans do.
  • Cognitive applications can infer and extract ideas.
  • With each interaction, cognitive applications sharpen their understanding and continue learning.
  • With the ability to see, talk and hear, they interact with humans in a natural way.

The report also noted that integration of data is critical to gaining data insight. In the case of the Salesforce CRM platform, 56% of respondents said their companies are integrating Salesforce clouds, such as the Sales, Marketing and Service clouds. Accordingly, respondents have put a premium on data management, quality and integration to gain business insight. Among respondents, 72% see data as an asset. Another 62% work on data management and quality to preserve that asset, and 67% can now share data among departments.

These kinds of capabilities may seem incremental, or even basic, but solid data management practices, data quality and data integration are the cornerstones of garnering business insight from data. That's why, all in all, 65% of companies are investing to make their data actionable and accessible.

Experts said using intelligent systems to dig into customer data is going to be the next generation of market disruption -- for companies of all types.

"The companies that are company-obsessed are going to differentiate, succeed," said Brandon Purcell, analyst at Forrester Research. "Otherwise, they will be disrupted by the Ubers and Airbnbs of the world who understand their customers from their customer data."

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